Past and present Madison officials reflected on Joseph Mezzacca Jr. as news of his death spread through the community on Wednesday.
The borough attorney, who counseled Madison's land use boards for decades and then advised the governing body for the last 16 years, after being hospitalized with an illness. He was 65.
The officials recalled David vs. Goliath legal battles, with the sole practitioner facing law-firm giants and winning.
They remembered the Madison resident's sense of humor and calming disposition.
They recalled his annual calendars of his photographs of the Rose City that highlighted his love of Madison's architecture and history.
And they thought of the "Law & Order" theme song, which Mezzacca set as his cell phone ringtone.
Mezzacca possessed a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge, and he will be missed, officials said.
"My family and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Mr. Joe Mezzacca," Council President Jeannie Tsukamoto said. "He dedicated his professional life to Madison and served the Borough with distinction in many capacities. Joe was considerate, astute, articulate, kind and caring. He was a good friend and a fine gentleman with a great sense of humor. We will think of him whenever we hear the 'Law & Order' theme song, Joe’s cell phone ringtone. We will miss his wisdom, thoughtful counsel and calming disposition. Our prayers are with his family and loved ones."
Former Mayor Mary-Anna Holden recalled his impressive track record of legal victories.
"Joe was key to many of Madison's successes from land use and acquisition issues, labor negotiations, tax appeals, utilities, bidding and contract negotiations," Holden said. "He never lost a Borough case during my 14 years of service with him. Clearly, he had some huge wins even when going up against some law-firm giants while being a sole practictioner—the classic David vs. Goliath. He had a tremendous intellect, great sense of humor and love for his community and the integrity of its neighborhoods. Joe was immensely patient and was the consummate multi-tasker yet always delivered a quality product and fair, well-researched opinion.
"He was an artist as well—as his photographs and annual calendars bear out. Again, they portray his love for Madison, its architecture, local history and historic preservation.
"This is a huge loss of not only the town's institutional memory, but the loss of a truly fair, decent and great, great man."
Mayor Bob Conley said Mezzacca was an experienced legal guide whose style reminded him of that of a country lawyer who worked for the love of his community.
"Joe served Madison for decades through his role as the attorney with the Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Planning Board before the serving as Borough Attorney for the past 16 years," Conley said. "He guided Madison through land purchases and sales, litigation as well as always being right on top of municipal law as issues came up during Council meetings. His style reminded me of the classic 'country lawyer,' the professional who wasn't in the office for the money but put in the endless hours for the love of his community. He will be missed."